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NC Supreme Court Decision Reduces Threat of Prolonged Litigation for Businesses

| Tort Reform & Legal Climate

A recent June decision by the North Carolina Supreme Court provided yet another judicial victory for the state’s job creators, reducing the threat of prolonged litigation for North Carolina businesses. The ruling in the case of North Carolina v. McGrady concerned the gatekeeping role played by courts in determining the admissibility of expert testimony in court cases. Uncertainty surrounding the admissibility of expert testimony can prolong costly litigation for businesses and individuals alike. Therefore, the adoption of adequate, federally-aligned standards for determining the acceptance of expert testimony is essential for any state that wishes to maintain a competitive legal climate that is attractive to new business growth. In North Carolina v. McGrady, the state Supreme Court has secured precisely that.

In 2011, the North Carolina General Assembly amended the approach to expert testimony outlined in the North Carolina Rules of Evidence, bringing it into alignment with a federal standard adopted by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1993 (the Daubert standard). That standard clarified and solidified the important gatekeeping role of federal courts in determining admissibility of evidence. And the language adopted by the General Assembly in 2011 was nearly identical to the Daubert standard. It held that to be admissible, expert testimony must be “based on sufficient facts or data,” be “the product of reliable principles and methods,” and ensure that the “witness has applied the principles and methods reliably to the facts of the case.”

The Supreme Court’s ruling in North Carolina v. McGrady adds judicial weight to the statutory changes previously adopted by the General Assembly, bringing consistency to state and federal rules of evidence and asserting that “the General Assembly has made it clear that North Carolina is now a Daubert state.” For North Carolina’s overall business climate, this is another important step that moves us further up the competitive leaderboards. It is also a reminder of the importance higher courts like the state Supreme Court play in effecting pro-growth, pro-jobs public policy. The NC Chamber was pleased with this development, and we applaud members of the Supreme Court who voted in favor of business with this important legal ruling.

Gary J. Salamido
Vice President, Government Affairs
North Carolina Chamber